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Insect Swarm

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He’s here again tonight. From your vantage point onstage it can be hard to make out distinct figures in the gloom, but you’d recognise that build anywhere, those broad shoulders that hint at a threat even when at rest. He’s sitting at the bar at the back of the room, low lighting gleaming off his bald head, that $1000 suit swallowing up the light. His face is in shadow, the curl of cigar smoke the only indication of which way his head’s turned — but that slow bloom of heat in your gut is an instinct you’ve cultivated well. You know his eyes are fixed on you.

Well, then. You’d better give him a show.

Your gown clings to your curves, a silver floor-length number with a slit all the way up to your hip, shimmering on your body like a waterfall. At the tables, the punters whoop and jeer, dollar bills spinning through the air to carpet the stage beneath your feet. You smile, hands on the pole, and begin to dance, for all intents and purposes completely engaged with your movements. The band are playing one of their more high tempo tracks, and you ratchet up the energy, feeling his eyes on your body as you flip and undulate around the pole. It’s hard work, but you know it looks effortless. You’re at the top of your game, after all.

It hasn’t escaped your notice that the last three times Fontaine has visited were the times when your name was second on the bill. Jasmine’s was first, of course — Jasmine is always first — but her ubiquitousness gave the second slot a power of its own.

To your knowledge, none of the girls have ever seen Fontaine privately, and despite the large sums of money and larger threats given by clients to maintain their privacy, you feel sure it would be impossible for any girl to keep news of a client like that to herself. After all, look what Ryan has done for Jasmine. Fontaine Futuristics was becoming even more successful than Ryan Industries these days; whoever Frank set his heart on — assuming its existence — would have it made.

The music changes, a new track, something jazzy and smoky slow. You smile to yourself; you know you excel at at this pace. You figure you’ve given the table area enough attention for now, and you switch your focus to the figure at the bar, throwing sultry glances his way like a fisherman casting a net. There’s no change in his demeanor — he simply sits and watches, the only clue to his expression a brief moment of flame when he lights his second cigar. He’s using a lighter rather than Incinerate!, an old-fashioned, silver square. Unusual, nowadays. You wonder what it says that the creator of plasmids doesn’t use them himself. Or maybe he just keeps them for special occasions.

As the track comes to an end, you wipe your brow and give a laugh. It’s a trick you learned from Jasmine — give them a little humanity, a little weakness. Make it real — so that you’re not a starlet on the silver screen but a creature of soft flesh and warm blood. You steal a glance at Fontaine, but he’s turned away now, stubbing out his cigar as he leaves.

It really is too bad.

As you’re making your way to the bar, a fat wad of cash neatly tucked away at your breast, a hand shoots out and grabs your hip. You jump a little, before rolling your eyes when you see who it is.

“Hector,” you say firmly, “No touching, honey, you know the rules.”

“I’m sorry,” Hector says, though it’s more like a drunken whine. “I just wanted to talk to you, baby. How come you never see me no more?”

“You know why, Hector,” you say, removing his hand from your hip with a strength borne of long hours practising on the pole. “Can’t have what you can’t afford. Maybe you should ask your boss for a pay rise, then I could see what I could do.”

He stares miserably into his drink. You both know that’s never going to happen, short of holding Cohen at gunpoint — and maybe not even then.

“Great show tonight, sweetie.” You look up into Jasmine’s wide blue eyes, and smile.

“Thanks. Though I think the crowd missed you.”

She shrugs, her auburn hair rippling over bare shoulders. The effect is stunning. “I’m sure that’s not true. Listen, I need to talk to you. Or… well, there’s someone here who wants to have a word.” She’s suddenly shifty, not meeting your gaze. “Could you go meet him in my dressing room?”

“Now?” Your heart sinks — you’d been hoping to quiz the bartender on Fontaine, searching for tips that might lead you to his pot of gold.

“Now.” She still won’t look at you. “He hates to be kept waiting.”

*

Jasmine is the only girl at Eve’s Garden with her own dressing room. Red and gold drapes cover the walls, turning the small room into an exotic and sumptuous wonderland. Jasmine’s dressing table takes up most of the wall space, her pots of make-up and hair curlers artfully scattered across it as if she’d deliberately taken the time to create a tableaux. On the opposite wall is her wardrobe, modestly filled with gowns, and at the far end is a comfortable sofa — and on the sofa, one leg crossed over the other, one arm resting along the back in a deceptively relaxed position, is Andrew Ryan.

You struggle to hide your shock, though your heart’s leapt to your throat. Of course, you’ve seen him around — Jasmine sees him here at least once a fortnight — and he’s even watched a few of your shows, although you doubt he would remember you. Some men only care about the first name on the bill.

“Mister Ryan,” you say, voice gratifyingly steady. “What an unexpected pleasure.”

“I’ll get straight to business,” he says, not offering you a seat. “Needless to say, this stays within this room. I’m sure I don’t need to explain the consequences should anything escape these four walls.”

You shake your head, wondering if “anything” includes you. For the first time, you begin to appreciate Cohen’s genius — the bristling attitude of Ryan’s posters captures his manner to a tee.

“Fontaine Futuristics is expanding. Fontaine’s cooking up something new in his labs, and I will find out what it is before he can bring it to market. I want you to… infiltrate… his company.” Ryan adjusts his collar, self-conscious. It’s fascinating. “You’ll find out what he’s up to and report back to me. You will, of course, be generously compensated.”

You can’t help but stare at him as his words sink in. “You’re talking about a honey trap.”

“Indeed.”

You curse Jasmine for putting you in this position. You might want Fontaine’s cash and influence, but crossing him was something you thought you’d never be stupid enough to try. You think of the figure at the bar, silence and shadows, and contrast that with what you’ve seen in the papers, what you’ve heard out on the street. The man didn’t even use his own plasmids — he crushed his enemies easily enough without them.

Ryan watches you think, impatience scored into his brow. Asshole. His offer is Rapture all over. Allowing you the illusion of choosing, when you know you don’t have a choice.

“I’ll take your silence for agreement,” Ryan says finally, opening his briefcase. An edge of excitement creeps into his brisk tone. “Let’s sign some NDAs.”

*

You'll give Ryan one thing — he knows how to throw a party. The Kashmir is decked out to the nines, the walls drenched in thin gold streamers that hang from the ceiling, drowning the gathering in wealth. You summon the bravado that gets you on stage every night and smile at every stranger that passes, recognising more than a couple of them from nights at Eve's Garden. Rapture’s finest in their element. You shake off the feeling that you’re out of your depth.

“Keep it together.” Jasmine at your elbow, hissing into your ear. You understand that everything you do here reflects on her — and that the details of your agreement with Ryan are unknown to her. As far as she knows, you’re here as another of his favorites. She’s definitely been colder to you since the night you’d met him in her dressing room, fear disguised as resentment, and that, if nothing else, makes you long to break Ryan’s stupid NDA.

But that really would be foolish down here, where the sharks are more than just a figure of speech.

On a platform up ahead, Ryan greets his guests, his girlfriend hanging off his arm. She looks tired. For a moment you feel a pang of sympathy for her predicament. You can’t blame her for attaching herself to the man — she does the same thing you do every night and is paid for it, too, albeit through a more respectable route.

“Here.” Jasmine pushes a champagne flute into your hand. “Don’cha want to have a good time?” Her smile is like ice; just as dazzling, just as fragile. “There’s some people over there I’d like to get to know. Will you be alright?”

“Of course.” You smile back. “I’ll be just fine.”

The crowd swallows her up.

You take a sip of the champagne. It’s the good stuff — you’ve had enough drinks with the elite to be able to tell the difference, although until now it’s just been one-on-one. Still, you can’t drink too much and risk losing sight of your mission — or worse still, risk ballsing it up.

Where is your mark, anyway?

Side-stepping a group of finely dressed ladies, you scan the crowd, looking out for a shift in the pattern of moving bodies. Fontaine and Ryan both move like they possess extra gravity, creating wells in any crowd as they inevitably drew people towards them. You’re used to reading a room, used to second-guessing the mood of a crowd. It strikes you that perhaps you are well-suited to subterfuge after all.

Perhaps he’s stepped out for a piss? You step into the shadow of the staircase to watch the doors, sipping your drink to avoid having to speak to anyone. At least this gives you time to plan your approach. You’re not sure whether to play it confident — “Delighted to finally meet you!” — or coy, catching his eye and letting him approach. From what you’ve heard of him, you think he’d prefer to do the chasing — but then, he’s seen you dance. He already knows you’re no wallflower.

“What’s a fine thing like you doin’ here all alone?” His voice, straight into your ear, so close you can feel the heat of his breath. You jump, turning, and the champagne jumps with you, straight out of your glass and onto his tailored pants.

Fuck.

He steps back, looking down at the damage in silence, and you flounder. Ryan’s going to murder you. Your life is over. Fontaine’s pants really are incredibly well-tailored, a fact which is only making the situation worse.

“Well,” Fontaine says at last, “I guess if you’re rich enough to get an invite to this place, you can afford my to pay my dry cleaning bill.” He smiles, and if Jasmine’s mouth is like ice, his is pure cold steel.

You don’t relish the thought of asking Andrew Ryan to clean Fontaine’s pants for him, but you’re still alive, so you’re taking this as a win.

“Perhaps that’ll teach you not to sneak up on people like that,” you say, softening it with a twitch of your mouth. Let me clean that up for you , your brain supplies, followed by how about I pay in some other way, but you’re not in the back rooms of Eve's now — more’s the pity.

“Or maybe you should expect it.” He matches your step forward, until you’re just slightly closer than the lords and ladies around you, and oh, this is going to be easy . “Single young woman, all alone, in a place like this.” He takes a sip of his drink — single malt on the rocks — slow and calculated, his gaze never leaving your face.

You take another half-step forward, banking on his pride to keep him from stepping back. “I didn’t realise Mister Ryan threw such dangerous parties. In fact I’m a little surprised he invited you.”

It’s a joke, but Fontaine doesn’t laugh. “Ryan knows to keep his friends close and his enemies closer.”

You’re almost chest to chest now, hidden from the revels by the shadow of the staircase. You keep your voice lowered — just above a whisper. “And which am I?”

He does laugh then, his mouth twisting up. “You’re good, kid. Bet that gets them linin’ up for you down at Eve’s Garden.”

Your heart sinks, but his hand has moved to your waist, the heavy heat of his palm sinking through the silk of your dress as he draws hard circles over your hip. This close, you’re enveloped in the scent of aftershave and lingering smoke, finished with the burn of the spirit in his glass. It’s a surprisingly heady mix. If you didn’t have Andrew Ryan breathing down your neck, you might actually be kind of into this.

“You got me,” you reply, and you let your eyes drift to his mouth and then back up again. Just because he knows the tricks, doesn’t mean they don’t work. “You’ve been down my way a lot recently. Seen something you like?”

His hand suddenly grips you, hard; you’re jerked forwards and you fall against him, some fear instinct making you turn your head to avoid getting powder on his jacket. His mouth presses at your ear, hot and wet.

“Don’t play me for some regular John,” he rasps, the whiskey on his breath sending shivers down your spine. “You think you can flutter your little eyelashes at me and suddenly I’ll make it rain? Take you to the stars? Frank Fontaine’s favorite gal?” You squirm, his fingers digging painfully into your hip. “That might work on ol’ Ryan over there,” he continues, “won’t work on me. I want something, I take it, and when you dance, you dance for me.”

He releases you and you stumble back, gasping, rubbing at your hip. You can feel bruises blooming in the spaces his fingers have left.

“Say hi to Jasmine for me,” he smirks, one last shot of cruelty, and then he’s gone, sauntering back into the crowd and vanishing like a ghost.

 

Chapter Text

“He what?!” Andrew Ryan is spitting feathers, which you have to assume is not unusual. What is unusual is that fact that his rage is directed at you, which would be uncomfortable enough without the fact that you and everyone else in this city, with the possible exception of Frank Fontaine, lived and died at his pleasure.

Frank Fontaine. That motherfucker.

“He thinks I’m after his money,” you say, biting back “like you and Jasmine.” You’re not sure what their relationship is like, but part of you thinks Ryan would probably respect her more for her capitalist grifting than for any false confession of love.

“And whose fault is that?” His mouth curls in a sneer. He towers over you with the full weight of his influence, and you do your best not to shrink from it.

“I’m sorry, I’ll — I’ll work on it,” you say, mostly from a desire to leave. It’s almost 6am, and you’re still standing here in your party clothes in Andrew Ryan’s lobby, having waited for him to finish his private afterparty and summon you from the restaurant like a dog.

“Don’t make me regret hiring you,” Ryan says, as if you’d come to him begging to risk your life for Rapture. “I’ll be coming to Eve’s in two weeks time, and I want results, d’you hear me?”

You nod, though short of splicing up and shooting your way into Fontaine’s labs, you have no idea how you’re going to deliver. He turns away, waving his hand. “Get out.”

Gratefully, you get out.

*

There’s no point going home, so you go straight to the Garden’s backstage bedroom and sleep. You’re woken hours later by the bartender, who shakes you awake and pushes a tall glass of water into your hand.

“Doors open in fifteen,” he tells you, and you sigh, thank him for the water, drag yourself upstairs to the dressing room to get made up.

You don’t realise he’s there until you’re on stage, gazing out past the lights at the faces of the crowd. Fontaine, you realise with shock. Still at the bar, still behind the rest of the punters, except today he’s moved forward so that his face is in the light, watching. You're used to men looking at you — you dance and fuck for a living — but this is different. He stares at you as if inventorying one of his products, slowly taking you apart, pricing you piece by piece.

You try to convince yourself it’s satisfaction rushing through your veins and not the shock of feeling exposed, a sudden squirming self-consciousness after your encounter the night before. When you dance, you dance for me. Part of you had thought you’d never see him again.

But you’re a consummate professional, second on the bill for a reason, and however unnerving Fontaine’s gaze is, you’ve got a job to do.

“Esteemed guests,” you begin, your voice a low murmur as you caress the microphone like a lover. “It is my… great pleasure…”

He’s still looking at you, his eyes piercing. You swallow. “It’s my pleasure, to introduce tonight’s band.” You could swear there’s a smirk playing round his mouth, though when you focus his expression appears unchanged. “Let’s give them a warm welcome.”

You raise your hands in applause as the band begin to play, turning your head towards the sound but keeping Fontaine in the corner of your eye. He's motionless — one hand resting in the pocket of his absurdly expensive suit, while the other stretches along the bar as if he owns the place — but his eyes move unmistakably over your body, lingering at your curves, sweeping back up to meet your eye, unblinking and unrepentant.

It's as though he can see through your clothes and under your skin. You feel like a butterfly struggling under a jar, with Fontaine's pin through your heart.

There's a whole room full of people who are here to see you dance, but they might as well be on the moon. The pole is cold under your hands; you spin and move, slow at first and then faster as muscle memory takes over, the heat of his gaze like a fire held to your feet. When you loop your legs around the pole and lean outwards until the room is turned on its head, you make sure to meet his gaze and hold it.

He's still there when you finish.You don't know whether it's the adrenaline from dancing or this weird new feeling of vulnerability, but there's heat prickling at the back of your neck and an echoing ache in your gut.

You step right over the carpet of money and down from the stage, ignoring the tables around you, marching through the crowd until you're standing right in front of him. He doesn't flinch — in fact, there's that smirk playing at the corner of his mouth that you really don't like.

Slowly, he begins to applaud.

“Buy me a drink?” you say. It's defiant and completely devoid of guile, but it's all you can trust yourself to say.

“Sure,” he says, standing. “But I think it'd taste better in private, don't you?”

You nod. You can feel the eyes of the room at your back as you turn and walk towards the backstage area, Fontaine so close behind you that you can feel his breathe on the back of your neck.

There's wine in the back room, and you pour out two glasses, determined not to feel self-conscious about its poor quality. If he's decided he wants the hooker routine after all, cheap wine is just part of the deal — or he can always buy you something better.

You hear the creak of bedsprings as he sits on the queen size behind you. Usually when you bring clients in here you feel in control if you're the one standing, active to their passive. As you turn to face the man on the bed, you feel uncomfortably like you're auditioning for him.

“Pretty sure I asked you to buy me a drink,” you say.

He pats his knee with a smile that could be friendly but for the cold calculation in his eyes. “Guess I'll owe ya one.”

You do as he says and sit across his lap side on, letting your legs curl elegantly, ankles crossed. It's second nature to position yourself in the most overtly alluring way possible, but your tricks don't seem to work on him — he raises his eyebrows as you slip your arm around his shoulder, bringing your tits up under his nose.

His free hand still moves around your back to cup your outer thigh, hot fingers squeezing your flesh through the silk of your dress. Ordinarily you'd reprimand a client for getting handsy before you had their money, but you understand that this is a test, and you can't pass up this opportunity to get back in Ryan's good books.

Plus he's very good at it.

Fontaine laughs under his breath as you shift on his lap. “Something the matter, doll?”

You give a bemused smile, knowing your casual act is betrayed by your damp palms and racing heart. “What are you doing here, Frank?”

“Came to see the show.” He finishes the drink and tosses the glass onto the mattress behind him, his now free hand slipping between your thighs and resting just above your knee. “Figured you'd be happy about it after your little performance at Ryan's do.”

His hand is slowly creeping up the inside of your thigh, heat brushing your skin, soft but insistent.

“And I thought you didn't want to give me any cash.” Your voice is low. “You've already racked up quite a bill here, y'know.”

“I'm good for it.” That goddamn smirk again. “But stick my name on a poster and you'll regret it.”

Well, you've never been one to question providence. You let your legs fall open as his hand reaches your underwear, heat blooming through the satin — and not just from him. The hand that's on your hip tightens painfully over the bruises from the night before and you shift on his lap, determined not to make a sound until the hand between your legs moves on you in wide, slow circles, and then you whimper.

He likes that. You feel him twitch under your thigh and start to press into you. You glance down to find him staring right at you, the same expression as before — calculating, cold, shameless. But in some respects he's like any man, and even Frank Fontaine can't disguise lust.

You can work with this.

Slowly, you push his jacket off his shoulders, and he obliges, taking his hands off you to shimmy out of the sleeves. His shirt buttons are next, deftly unfastened, and instead of pushing the material off his shoulders you direct his hands back to where they were, his mouth curving up as you press his fingers to your core.

The music from the club sounds muffled through the walls. It's Jasmine's set, but Ryan's spot at the bar is empty tonight; just as well, seeing as you've taken the bedroom.

You shift, rolling your hips on his lap, sighing as his hand moves on you through the fabric. It's a standard trick but it's not exactly an act either, and you hate the smugness written on his face, as if he can see right through you and read the turmoil of arousal in your gut.

“Someone's eager,” he murmurs, his voice rough. “Were you thinkin’ of me up on that pole? Winding your little legs around it, wishin’ it was something else?”

“I could feel you watching me.” It's a come-on that comes out like confession. This is a weird dance you're both playing, aware of both the act and infuriating lack of it. Yes, you say these things to all the guys. You know the lines. You know what they want to hear.

You rarely mean it. You never feel it, this rush of heat through your veins, this light sheen of sweat on your skin. This spike of adrenaline as he brushes up along your instinct for danger, even as his fingers brush aside the satin.

You gasp as his fingers slide inside you, straight to two; you buck on his lap and feel his erection jutting into your thigh.

“Jesus, doll,” he murmurs, “Ain't you wet for me.” Your chest is flushed, and as you meet his eyes you see his pupils are blown, dark with lust.

His suit is ruined — the second time you’ve done this, you think, although at least you won’t have to pay for it this time. He twists and probes, his thick fingers finding a spot that makes stars dance in front of your eyes. A third finger joins the rest effortlessly while his thumb circles your clit, slow and firm. You can feel it building, hot pleasure rippling over you, your eyes lidded and glazing over as the wave lifts and lifts.

“God,” you hear yourself saying, “Please, Frank —”

His other hand comes up from your thigh to grope your breast, heavy and businesslike, like he owns you.

“Begging already?” You hate the smugness layered in his growl. “An’ here I thought we was just getting started.” He bites your earlobe, hard enough to make you jump. His voice drops another octave. “Love those little whimpers you make. Can't wait to find out what you sound like when I'm fucking you.”

You grip his shoulders and rock onto his hand as you shudder, the wave crashing over you, sharp and sweet.

You come back to the sound of your heart pounding in your ears. You fight to get your breath back, shaking against his chest, and for a moment there's a gentle hand at your back, stroking down your spine.

“Alright, darlin’. How you doing there?”

You nod, struggling to regain some semblance of control. Nothing about this is new — you've come with clients before, though perhaps not as often as they'd thought — but now that vulnerable feeling is back, as if you've given too much, revealed something personal without meaning to. Is it the honey trap, the extra layer of deception complicating things? Or is it that you know what those hands do during the day, when they're not working their way under your clothes but curled into fists?

“Maybe I should be paying you,” you say. It's weak, but it gets a chuckle.

“Night’s not over yet,” Fontaine says, still stroking your back. It's nice of him. Surprisingly nice. Unnerving in its niceness.

Until you realise he's parting his legs now, guiding you down to your knees with a firm hand at the base of your skull.

“Come on, sweetheart,” he murmurs, his voice barely above a growl. “Ain't gonna suck itself.”

God, you hate him.

“Sure thing,” you say, smiling up at him, though your stomach rolls over in disgust. He's not smirking exactly, but there's something mocking in his gaze that makes you burn with humiliation, as if he's enjoying having you so on edge.

Well, you knew that already.

You're pretty sure you can make this quick.

There’s a box of condoms stashed under the bed, and as you reach for one without breaking eye contact you mentally thank Jasmine for her foresight. Fontaine shifts on the bed, one hand still tangled in your hair, the other at the buttons on his ruined suit trousers, trying to unpick them, rushed.

“I can do that,” you say, and he grunts and sits back, lets you finish the buttons and take out his cock, hot and heavy in your palm. He’s flagging slightly so you stroke him back to hardness, firm grip, brisk pace. He’s stopped staring at you now, head tipped back, breathing heavy through his nose in time with your movements. It’s almost annoying, but at least you can slip the condom on with minimal interruption.

You look up at him, leaned back with his shirt open and his legs apart, his cock flushed and upright, and something in you suddenly wants nothing more than to get up off your knees and straddle him. You want to feel that hot stretch as you sink onto him, hear him gasp and growl as you ride him. Your hair wrapped in his fist, his nails scoring your thigh, sparking off the pain. You want to watch him come undone. You want to prove that Frank Fontaine might be nothing more than a man after all.

Maybe next time, you think. But then it hits you that there’s no guarantee of a next time, and you still have nothing to give Ryan. Shit.

“You got a lot of tension, Frank,” you murmur. “Rough day?”

In answer he leans down and pulls your mouth to his cock, forcing the head between your lips.

So much for that.

Suppressing an eye roll you follow his lead, swirling your tongue around his length, relaxing your throat to take him all the way. His grip on your hair is pissing you off but you take it, let him fuck your mouth with cruel efficiency until at last he slows, shudders, pulses down your throat with a thick groan.

He’s disgusting. He disgusts you. But there’s heat between your legs again, and you don’t have to check to know that your underwear is soaked.

Fontaine ties off the condom, balancing it on the bed beside him as he buttons his pants. You wipe your mouth as you get to your feet. You know your lips will be flushed and swollen, colour high in your cheeks.

“Wanna lie down with me for a bit?” God, your voice sounds rough, but he’ll probably love that. You rest a hand on his shoulder, stretching out the physical contact. Some clients are more open afterwards, at ease, willing to spill their secrets. You don’t hold out much hope that Fontaine is one of them.

“Nah, I gotta split.” There it is. Oh well, you’ve tried your best, and if you’re honest with yourself you kind of want the man out of your rooms so you can try to sort out the mess in your head.

“You incinerate that?” He’s pointing to the condom.

“I’ll take care of it.”

“But it’s destroyed, right?”

“Sure,” you say. Generally you tend to just bin them, but there’s an incinerator in the back you can use if he insists. You don’t doubt he’ll have some way of knowing if you don’t.

He stands, towering above you. You step back, summoning the last of your energy to honey your wrecked voice. “Will I see you again?”

“Ah, kid.” He grins, that wide grin that’s less like a smile and more like a predator showing its teeth. “Don’t go soft on me. I’ll pneumo what I owe.” He tips your chin up and kisses you, hard and searching on your tender mouth. “See you around.” And he’s gone.

To your surprise, Fontaine comes back twice more within a fortnight — but by the time Ryan returns to the Garden you have nothing to give him but a single yellow rose wrapped in banknotes.

Chapter Text

The first thing you do after Ryan dismisses you from Jasmine’s dressing room is go to the bar and drink. Not wine, you think, rummaging through the bottles under the bar — there, Old Tom, that should do it. Three fingers in a glass, down in two mouthfuls, and if the taste reminds you of anyone you furiously refuse to acknowledge it.

Ryan is crazy. You’d thought this before — anyone who saw the bottom of the ocean as free real estate had to be certifiable — but you’d never seen such specific proof until now.

“It’s not enough,” he’d told you, moustache bristling. “If you’re seeing him here, it’s too easy for him to leave business behind.”

That’s the point, you think angrily, pouring yourself another shot. That’s the reason anyone comes here. It’s an escape, a fantasy. Eve’s Garden, where the only sin that existed was, well, the original one.

Getting Fontaine backstage had been difficult enough. There’s no way you’ll be able to wrangle an invite back to Fontaine Futuristics, let alone Fontaine’s private apartment at Mercury Suites. Who does Ryan think you are? You doubt if even Fontaine’s friends are allowed back to his penthouse — assuming he has any friends.

You could almost feel sorry for him for that.

“What’s the matter?” You look up as Jasmine’s voice cuts through your mess of thoughts. “Andrew finished with you, has he?”

The whiskey is already creeping into your brain, and you’re filled with the need to reassure her, whatever the consequences.

“Jasmine,” you begin, “It’s not like that.”

“Like what?” She looks tired tonight. Her usually bouncing waves are lying flat on her shoulders, and there are circles under her eyes that even makeup can’t conceal. “It’s alright,” she says, gently. “You don’t have to pretend. I know it’s not your fault.”

She takes the empty shot glass from your unresisting fingers and pours one for herself, tipping it back elegantly, staring into the dregs. “We all gotta do what we have to to survive down here.”

It occurs to you that she’s no longer talking about you, but you’re already too buzzed to be able to pinpoint her target.

“Jasmine,” you say. You’ve just remembered something, something you haven’t thought about since Ryan’s disastrous party. Say hi to Jasmine for me . “What do you know about Frank Fontaine?”

She looks at you sharply, doe-eyes seemingly caught in the headlights. “Nothing. Why?”

“You never talked to him?”

“Well, sure,” she says warily. “I might have brought him over a drink or two. You know him far better than that by now, I’m sure.”

You reach for the bottle, not wanting to admit just how wrong she is.

*

You would think you’d be used to it by now — Frank Fontaine in your bedroom — but he still seems larger than life, out of place in this pokey little backstage dive. You’ve always thought men all look the same once their status-symbol clothes come off, but Fontaine is just as inscrutable naked as when he’s fully dressed. His armour isn’t carried in his suits but in his attitude, in the mean quirk of his mouth, the gaze that follows you round the room like a cat eyeing a mouse it might later decide to eat.

“Dance for me.”

“I just did. Didn’t you notice?” You kick your heels off and go to join him where he’s laid back on the bed, crawling across the mattress until you're straddling his lap.

“Oh, I noticed.” His hands are on you immediately, cupping your ass, running down your thighs, leaving trails of fire in their wake. God, you wish he wasn’t so good at this. Every nerve in your body is telling you to forget Ryan, forget everything outside this room and let Fontaine have you in whatever way he wants.

But you have to pull yourself together. You have one goal tonight — to get invited onto his turf. As far as the honey trap is concerned this is make or break, and you’re well aware you’ll be the one getting broken if Ryan doesn’t get his money’s worth.

You feel his arm at your back, and suddenly the room spins as he flips you both, crowding in on top of you and sucking hot kisses into the crook of your shoulder.

It's going to be impossible to stop him if you don't get a move on.

“Hey, Frank?”

He makes a noise of acknowledgement without ceasing his assault on your neck.

“I need to tell you something. Something I’m… not meant to.”

He pulls back at that, fixing you with a stare. “You’re not pregnant, are you?”

“Jesus!” You laugh, caught off-guard. “No, nothing like that.”

He grunts and returns to your neck, pulling your hips closer, grinding into you. You’re melting against the sheets, hot and sticky, your body already falling open under his touch. You cling to your weakening mental resolve. Later . Scheming first — and if that fails, you can surrender completely in the knowledge that it’ll be your last chance to make the most of it.

“Frank!” You bat his shoulder, and he stops again.

“Christ, what is it?”

“It’s something I overheard. Thought you’d want to know about it.”

“Yeah? Go on then, I ain’t getting any younger here.”

Hi cock is pressing into your hip, warm and insistent. You wish it was less distracting than it is.

“Just something Ryan said the other day. About… bugging the place.”

It’s a lie, but lies are all you have to work with. At least it gets his attention. “Ryan’s bugging a whorehouse?”

You frown. “First of all, Eve’s is a club. Officially.”

“Really.” He grinds onto you pointedly and you try not to lose your train of thought.

“Alright,” you mutter. “Some of us… moonlight.”

His hand comes up to your chin, but you raise it before he can touch you. He smiles. “I ain’t got nothing to hide. Ryan can listen to me getting off all he wants, might even learn something."

In hindsight you definitely should have expected that.

“You're not worried about being spied on?” you push.

He shrugs. “It's not as if we're talkin’ business, is it?”

No, it's certainly not. You buck your hips against him and he hums in the back of his throat, his eyes falling shut.

“Maybe this would be more fun at home.” You make it playful, but his eyes snap open.

“You angling for an invite?” You thank your stars that that's incredulity and not anger; he's not storming out of here, though maybe that has more to do with the hand you've got wrapped around his dick.

“You're not worried about me, are you?” you breathe. “I promise you can search me for wires all you want.”

He huffs a laugh, covering your hand with his own and stroking himself with it. “Tempting.” His other hand comes up to your mouth and you suck on his fingers obediently, breathing in sharply when he moves to thumb your clit.

You don't dare bring it up again for the rest of the night, but when your rose arrives the next morning there's a card inside the box. Address, date and time, signed with a double F.

*

The evening is balmy, the hint of brine in the air just slightly stronger than usual as you step out of the Metro station at Olympus Heights. It’s past rush hour, the city lulling as the working day ends and the nightlife starts to stir. Usually you’d be at Eve’s by this time, making yourself up, chatting with the other girls. But not today.

You've never been to Mercury Suites before. In truth, aside from commuting to your apartment in Apollo Square you rarely venture outside of Fort Frolic. You certainly never have cause to visit anywhere this fancy, and you feel self-conscious in the dress you've picked out, a figure-hugging ocean-blue in shining satin that nevertheless pales next to the outfits worn by those around you.

Not that anyone’s looking your way. You’re covered up with a plain black coat that falls to your calves, a hat pinned low over your eyes. You doubt Fontaine wants your presence advertised, and besides, you don’t fancy having to answer any awkward questions from curious residents.

The desk clerk barely looks at you as you give your name at the entrance hall. He waves you through with no more than a brief once-over.

Whatever. You’re going up in the world.

You reach the elevator just as the doors are closing, catching them with an arm. There’s a woman already in there, older than you, with impeccably styled hair and a row of real pearls shining around her throat. For a moment you think you recognise her, but then you realise she must be a patient of Steinman. For all the doctor’s artistic posturing, his disciples all ended up looking eerily similar.

The woman turns her head slightly, the air of disdain palpable. She sneaks a look over your shoulder as you key in the code for the penthouse, and you have to suppress a grin at her widening eyes, her furtive double take. You could get used to this. She gets out on the second floor, stealing a backwards glance at you, and you smile serenely as the doors close behind her.

Whatever you’re expecting to see on the top floor, a Japanese rock garden isn’t it. Fontaine’s never struck you as particularly zen, but this hallway stretches ahead seemingly for miles. You wonder if he’s set this up to throw people off. It’s definitely unsettled you, and as you walk past the stretch of gravel to the imposing doors you have to reassure yourself that you have permission — from both sides — to be here.

He meets you at the door.

“And what time d’you call this?”

You’re ten minutes late. “Sorry, Frank.” You turn your head to accept his cheek kiss, chaste on the surface but of course his hand wanders down to grab your ass. No jacket today, he’s in just a white shirt and suspenders, the top two buttons open. His cologne is already making you weak. You internally snap at yourself to get it together.

“Time is money.” He winks at you. “Your money, a’course. Come in.”

You step into the vast entrance hall and — well. What is there to say, really, except that it’s even more Fontaine than you could have imagined.

“Is that a bear?”

He gives you a look. “What do you think, genius?”

The bear towers above you as you follow his gesture to climb the staircase, light glinting off its claws, which are almost as tall as you are. You can’t help imagining them tearing into you, exploding through your chest, and as the thought passes through your mind Fontaine comes up behind you, a firm hand at the small of your back.

His bedroom is three times the size of your apartment. A huge bed takes up the far wall, while a fireplace sits close by. It’s relatively rare to see one in Rapture — something to do with the smoke. He takes a poker and prods the logs lying there while you shrug out of your coat and remove your hat, laying them on a luxurious armchair.

“Would you mind?” He points at the fireplace and makes a whooshing sound between his teeth.

“Oh,” you say, “I… don’t.” You’ve been slipped the odd gene tonic by clients, and Eve pick-me-ups are easy enough to come by, but you don’t have the Adam for anything else.

He shrugs and takes a book of matches from the mantelpiece. The flames catch easily; there’s a bed of twisted newspaper beneath the logs that you suppose he’s doused with something. You think you can make out his name in more than a few of the headlines.

“Why don’t you use plasmids?” you ask, staring into the flames. “I would've thought Frank Fontaine would have all the latest upgrades.”

“Maybe Frank Fontaine ain't who you think he is.” He steps forward and takes your hands, pulling them up to rest around his neck as if you’re dancing, which also has the side effect of pulling your body flush against his. Oh. Yes. That’s why you’re here. For a moment you’d forgotten about the money, about Ryan, overwhelmed by the grandeur and the quiet of his suite. You can’t remember the last time you’ve felt so separate from the rest of the world.

“You're not on track to become the most powerful man in Rapture?”

His breath tickles your ear. “Let’s just say I’ve learned not to mix business with pleasure.”

No information there. In some ways you’re glad there’s no chance of him accidentally hurling an electrobolt at you while in the throes of passion; you’ve never seen it yourself, but gossip spreads.

“My business is pleasure,” you say, your lips parted, inches from his. You catch his open glance down as his hands slide down past your waist. “I guess I get the best of both worlds.”

He kisses you, gentler than usual but deep, his tongue slow, searching your mouth until you’re lightheaded. His hands are firm on your ass, drawing you closer; you can’t help the shiver that runs through you at the intensity of his attention, the intent in every move.

He breaks off, kissing down your jaw, sucking red marks onto your skin. It’s just on the edge between pleasure and pain, and you find yourself clinging to his shoulders, your chest pressed against his, heartbeat to racing heartbeat.

“You like doing this here?” you murmur. You caress the back of his neck, holding him to your skin. “Having me all to yourself?”

“Security takes some beating.” He slips a hand into the space between you, creeping down past your stomach. “Ain’t no-one can get past my system, not even Ryan. We’re all alone, pet, you and me.” His voice drops to a growl. “So no-one’s gonna hear you when you’re screaming my name.”

You gasp as he lifts you into the air and practically throws you back onto his bed. He rolls up his sleeves while you lie there getting your breath back, shrugs out of his suspenders and leaves them hanging from his belt. Then he's looming over you, crawling the length of your body to straddle your waist. The room suddenly seems enormous, shadows elongating along the walls, corners turned into caverns in the firelight gloom. The smell of him fills your nostrils, amber and musk and a faint edge of something chemical.

You're so momentarily overwhelmed that you don't notice the handcuffs looped around the headboard until they snap shut over your wrists.

“What the hell?!”

“Something the matter?” he drawls, cool, but the bulge in his pants tells a different story. “Expecting to be wined and dined? ‘Fraid not, sweetheart, I don’t pay you for the conversation.”

The heat in your stomach flares even as your heart turns over. You pull against the restraints, cool metal biting at your wrists. “I’d appreciate some warning is all.” You keep your voice steady, though your heart’s kicking in your chest. At Eve's, pulling this kind of shit would earn you a ban no matter who you were — but you’re not at Eve's, and Jasmine is miles across town, probably drinking wine with the man who’d abandoned you here. “I could have brought some ideas to the table.”

“That so?” He leans over you, spreading your body beneath his. One hand strokes your hair back from your brow, which is damp with perspiration. You try to laugh it off, the mirror of your dancing routine, but here your nervousness is real and you both know it. “And what kinda ideas would someone like you need to come up with?” he continues. “New ways to get me off?” He moves down your cheek with his fingertip, slowly traces onto your neck. “Ways to squeeze more money outta me?”

“Of course not.” You shudder, trying to control your racing heart, to summon any scrap of a cool facade, but it’s useless. His hand is at your breast now, slow and rough, his knee wedged up between your thighs. You try to move, but you can only shift uselessly against him, inadvertently arching into his touch, and that just makes him smirk.

“I got an idea,” he says, low, and he takes your mouth with his. It’s deep and biting, your lips stinging from his teeth, his tongue an invasion that leaves you struggling for breath. His body heat radiates onto your chest, hot, buzzing panic that shoots straight to your cunt.

“Y’know, I don't bring many people here,” he murmurs, his voice hoarse against your mouth. “But you’re special.” He pauses and raises his head, his eyes gleaming. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”

A log pops in the fire amid the soft crackling of flames. Would you mind? Testing your defenses. And now there’s something off about the way he’s looking at you, the light so low that his eyes appear black.

You make your smile as light and unconcerned as you can muster. “What I wanted to hear?”

“Mm. That I’m so… swayed by your charms,” he squeezes your breast again, rolling it under his palm, “that I’d let down my guard? Give up all my secrets?” You can feel his grin against your neck, hear the steel layered behind it, and the realisation crashes over you in a tide of ice-cold horror.

He knows. He’s known this whole time.

“Andrew Ryan’s spy in my bed.” The mocking in his tone makes you shudder. “Well, I prefer you to all the useless workers he sneaks into my factories. I should invoice him for all the cash I’ve given you.”

“Get off me.”

He laughs. For a second you think he’s going to do as you ask — surely there’s nothing he wants from you now the game is over — but then his hand moves under your dress to press tight against your core, and you can feel your own pulse dancing on his fingertips. “Nice try, sweetheart,” he murmurs into your ear. “More convincing when you’re not soaking wet, eh?”

You struggle against him, succeeding only on grinding harder onto his fingers, arousal spiking through you. He pulls your knees apart and slides over you until his clothed erection is digging into your wetness, and you can't help the whimper that escapes as he ruts against you, hard.

There’s three layers of fabric between you, but his cock hits exactly the right spot, leaving you frustrated in more ways than one. You find yourself arching back into the mattress, your legs coming up to wrap around him of their own accord, and as he sinks his teeth into your neck you can’t help crying out, pain bright and singing through your veins.

He looks at you, his lips flushed, pupils blown, that smirk you hate plastered over his face. “I guess the business part of this evening is over.”

“Go to hell,” you say, but it comes out more breathless than you liked.

He laughs. “Fightin’ words for someone currently trying to get my pants off.”

Your heels are digging into his trousers as if trying to pull them down. Fuck. “You paid for a house call,” you snap, trying to bring yourself back from this hot mess of confusion. “What's a little betrayal between friends?”

His eyebrows quirk, and for a split second you think you see surprise flicker across his features. But then his expression turns dark, and before you can blink his mouth slams back to yours. There's the pain you're used to, hard and stinging until you taste blood while your dress is shoved roughly up past your hips. Your wrists throb where the cuffs cut into you but you pull on them all the same, twisting, trying to weaken the lock.

Fontaine pulls away just long enough to get your underwear off and then he's back, biting his way down your exposed throat, mouthing at your breast, his tongue sweeping hot across the bud. He's pulled your neckline down, tearing the fabric, and you know you should feel angry about that but it's lost in the anger you feel towards everything, Ryan, Fontaine and most of all yourself.

Fontaine unbuttons his pants with one hand, shoving them down just enough, and then his wide fingers are slick inside you, roughly opening you up. Part of you longs to be able to get the rest of his clothes off — there’s something so grimy about only exposing the parts you need to use — but your hands twist uselessly above your head, and your hips are jammed up against his.

Within seconds fingers are replaced by the head of his cock, smooth heat just resting at your entrance. You brace yourself for violence, but instead he pauses, and somehow the tense anticipation is even worse.

“What’s a little betrayal,” he growls, inches from your face, his dick rubbing against you slow but insistent. “You thought were so clever, gettin’ one over on me. Thought you could just swan in here and take what you wanted? Look at me,” he barks as you turn your head away. “You’re gonna look me in the eye when I’m fucking you.”

He grabs your chin and wrenches you back, forcing you to stare into his eyes as he pushes inside you, slow, raw and inevitable.

You both gasp when he bottoms out, and he stays there a moment, rolling his hips in a way that sends deep shockwaves through you. It hurts , your unprepared body still struggling to catch up with his size, but the more he moves the more the burn shifts into something darker, no longer pain but a curling tongue of heat.

He pulls out slowly, making you feel every inch, and then thrusts in again at a pace that’s more about thoroughness than speed. His eyes hungrily read your reactions, gleaming with vindictive pleasure as you pant and whimper beneath him. Half of you is lost to the intensity, the heady cocktail of fear and desire. The other half almost wants to laugh. Here you are in the middle of a fortress, at the center of the labyrinth with the monster himself. But if he thinks he can beat you at your own game, he’s very much mistaken.

You look him straight in the eye and drop your voice to a whisper. “Is it in? I barely noticed.”

He snarls and claps a hand over your mouth, fucking you in earnest. You can feel heat building, every thrust pushing you closer until you're trembling on the brink, fighting for breath beneath his hand. The room swims in red and orange, light and dark blurring, and through it all is that gaze like a gravity well, focused on you. He didn’t even need to cuff you, you realise with something like panic; he could have pinned you to the bed with just that look alone.

Fuck. You try to say his name but it’s muffled in his palm, and only makes him tighten his grip.

“No more talking,” he snarls. “No more lies. You’re mine now, understand? You’re for me , and I don’t wanna hear a word outta your mouth unless I put it there. Now,” his hand moves from your mouth to your throat and squeezes , his own voice grown husky. “Scream for me.”

It hits you like an arrow, clean and bright, pleasure rushing over you like honey. You cry out on cue, and the sound kaleidoscopes around the distant walls, coming back to you disjointed. Fontaine doesn't stop as you clench and pulse around him, fucks you through your climax and then stutters out a few last aching thrusts before he too groans, gripping your throat so hard that for a moment you see stars.

You're too out of it to care that he shoots inside you — on the spur of the moment you hook your legs around his thighs and pull him in deeper, revelling in the way that makes him shudder against you, that one small sign of vulnerability. You drift on the chemical intimacy as you sink gently back to earth, the echoing room filled with sighs, your breathing mixed with his.

The next thing that floods you is exhaustion. Fontaine lies heavy on your chest, the whole weight of him crushing you, and the pain in your wrists is even more effective at cutting through the fog. His hand peels away from your neck, patting your cheek heavily, while the rest of him lies there sticky with sweat, shirt still hanging off him. “Oh kid,” he  says, a laugh in his voice. “It’s a pleasure doing business with you.”

Slowly he pushes himself up onto his forearms and slips out of you. You shudder in disgust at the warm wet rush that follows, your momentary lapse in judgement well and truly over.

“I hope you thought that through,” you say, your voice as icy as you can muster, although it comes out as a croak.

“Oh, don't worry your pretty little head about it. I'm clean and so are you if you're working at Eve's.” He collapses next to you on the bed, rummaging at the back of the drawer that sits beside it. “Take this.” He places something on your chest, a small round pill, dark green in colour.

You decide not to question the fact that he just has emergency contraception on hand. “I'm on birth control, Frank.”

“Take it anyway.” He tosses a small bottle of Lacas at you and you, pissed off, trapped and exhausted as you are, can't help rolling your eyes.

“And the key? I might need my hands at some point in the future.”

Wordlessly, he reaches over and taps the cuffs. They spring open. You snatch your arms down and roll your aching shoulders, wincing, frowning at the open seal.

“I’ve seen locks like this on the vita-chambers.”

“Yeah, it’s coded to my DNA. You think Ryan’s the only one with genetic encryption?” He grins, turning away to stick a cigarette between his teeth. “Go get the matches, would ya?”

You’re about to tell him to damn well get them himself, but there’s a subtle shift in his voice, the easiness of a moment ago edged out by something harder. He’s no longer looking at you as he buttons his pants, examines his cigarette unconcerned. Waiting.

With a hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach, you get to your feet, wiping up as best you can using your discarded underwear as a cloth. Your limbs ache, your dress is torn at the neckline and your wrists and neck are rubbed red by the cuffs and his mouth. You put the green pill on your tongue and swig from the bottle, the liquor making your head spin.

It’ll be a while before you’ll feel like working after hours at the club. Not that it matters, you think bitterly, with Ryan and Fontaine both vying to write you cheques.  

You pad back across the room and wordlessly offer up the book of matches. Fontaine pats your cheek and takes them, still focused on his cigarette. “Thanks, doll.”

When he gets to his feet he’s positively bouncing, running a hand over his head, silver smoke pluming as he takes a deep drag. “Wait here.”

He heads away out of the firelight, swallowed up by the gloom. You sit on the bed and wait. Maybe you can use a hat pin to hold your dress together until you get home. Would Fontaine lend you his bathysphere? You doubt it.

“Frank?” You hate how small your voice sounds in the cavernous room. How breathless.

“Here.” He brings over a few sheets of paper covered in sprawling diagrams, folding them in half. “You keep ‘em in here, right?” He grins, slipping them down the front of your dress in the most invasive way possible, his hand lingering at your breast. “Now, you stole these from my desk, you little grifter you. Got clean away with it, too. Ryan will be impressed. Maybe next time we’ll go to the labs, eh? That’ll really get him excited.”

“What if he doesn’t believe me?” The last thing you want to do is look at him, but he crouches down until he’s in your eyeline, forcing eye contact.

“He’ll believe you,” Fontaine says calmly. Gently. “He’ll believe you because you’ll make him believe you. Won’t you?”

All you can do is nod.